(AllHipHop News) For decades there has been speculation that law enforcement agencies have officers specifically targeting rap artists with the NYPD being named as having one of the most active sections. Jay Z alluded to the "Hip Hop Cops" on his song "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" when he rapped, "New rap patrollin the city, follow my crew."
Atlanta emcee Killer Mike (born Michael Render) addresses the police treatment of Black artists in an article for Vox. Mike teamed with author Erik Nielson to write the op-ed titled, "Rap lyrics are fiction — but prosecutors are treating them like admissions of guilt."
The piece focuses on former No Limit Records rapper McKinley "Mac" Phipps' manslaughter conviction. Mac was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the death of Barron C. Victor Jr.
Phipps' conviction has come under question thanks to a Huffington Post article that revealed five eye witnesses now say the prosecution "bullied" them into identifying mac as Victor's shooter. The story also states, "Phipps was convicted in September 2001 by an all-white jury, despite a lack of physical evidence and conflicting witness accounts."
Killer Mike and Neilson write about Mac's legal situation:
Phipps's case is unsettling because a potentially innocent man has spent almost half his life behind bars. But it's also disturbing because it is part of a long history of law enforcement unfairly targeting black artists, not just in New Orleans but across the country.
The two writers offer historical references of law enforcement's treatment of Hip Hop acts. They mention the F.B.I. sending a letter to N.W.A over the group's song "F**k Tha Police" and the backlash from cops from around the country. Mike and Neilson also offer their criticism of the rising practice of rap lyrics being used as criminal evidence.
Unfortunately, in many instances law enforcement really does treat rap like crime. As we have noted before, we've seen a troubling increase in the number of cases in which prosecutors introduce rap lyrics as evidence of a crime, (mis)representing the lyrics as autobiography or confession in order to secure convictions when other, more traditional forms of evidence are lacking.
While it's difficult to know how often rap shows up as evidence, because legal proceedings are not archived or published in a uniform way, we have identified hundreds of cases so far, and we suspect that's just the tip of the iceberg. What we know for certain, and what empirical research demonstrates, is that rap lyrics are highly prejudicial, so when they are put before a jury the consequences are often devastating for defendants.
Read Killer Mike and Erik Nielson's full op-ed here.